Carl Arrington
September 30, 1985 12:00 PM

Olivia suspected. She’d been craving avocados for days and Olivia loathes avocados. At the drugstore she bought one of those over-the-counter home-pregnancy tests and followed the directions. The chemicals changed the color of her urine sample. This was it. At 36 (her 37th birthday is this week), the big news, pending her doctor’s confirmation, was in. She had to tell Matt. But Olivia’s husband, Matt Lattanzi, 26, was off in Oregon visiting his family. Throughout that breezy day in Malibu, her friends kept asking what the sheepish grin was all about. Olivia remained mum.

Around dinnertime she went to her bedroom and punched the numbers on her white desk phone. She teased Matt with small talk about the weather, the garden, the pets and then let it drop. “By the way,” she said nonchalantly, “the rabbit died.” There was a moment of stunned silence followed by a long-distance duet of laughter and disbelief. “I was glowing,” recalls Matt, who is the eldest of 10 siblings. “My family was especially excited because the baby will be the first grandchild with the Lattanzi name.”

Matt caught the first flight home the next morning and that night the couple celebrated over dinner at the elegant Ivy restaurant. A few days later the doctor confirmed Olivia’s amateur diagnosis. They’d been trying since their marriage last year. The calendar, thermometer and all that getting physical had finally paid off.

Now, four and a half months later, it would still take Sherlock Holmes to notice. Nested on a comfy floral couch wearing a pale-blue oversize T-shirt knotted over her right hip and a matching floppy skirt, Newton-John is pleased that the slight bulge of her tummy is barely detectable. Though she could still pass for a sophomore on any college campus, Olivia had raised many a Hollywood eyebrow for marrying a man a decade younger. She stands undaunted. “Age isn’t important,” she jokes, “because we act like 12-year-olds.”

The blessed event may provide new lessons in maturity. “The baby is so exciting I hardly dare think about it,” she says, cuddling with Matt. “I waited so, so long, and now I can’t remember why I waited.” They look at each other, kiss and laugh like teenagers.

After six years of living together, Olivia and Matt got married last December in an intimate at-home ceremony. “It rained,” says the bride, “which is supposed to be good luck.” Matt gave her a gold heart locket that she always wears around her neck; it will be set with a new diamond every anniversary.

Olivia had no reservations about marriage, despite the fact that she had wed an actor whose career in such hunky teen epics as My Tutor and Grease 2 fell far short of her star status. (The two met in 1979 when Olivia was making the movie Xanadu and Lattanzi was doing a bit role.) Marrying up for actors often spells disaster. Not this time, says Olivia’s pal, screenwriter Nancy Gould-Chuda. “Matt isn’t at all star struck and gives Olivia exactly what she needs. He is the most sensitive male ever born.” Olivia agrees. “I was positive Matt was the right man and I wanted to start a family,” she says. “I’d had pangs about not having a child, but I was terrified of getting married. It finally just felt like the natural thing to do, and I’d never felt that way before.” She admits that much of her reticence stemmed from the painful memories of her own parents’ divorce when she was 10.

Matt doesn’t recall proposing formally or even calling her father in Australia to ask for her hand, but says, “All of a sudden we were making wedding plans.” They honeymooned in Paris, where Matt bought her a distinctive pearl-and-diamond engagement ring. “We’ve never done things in the right order,” he says laughing.

The conception, however, followed in the old-fashioned sequence. “I’ve been lucky so far,” she says. “I felt a little weak at first, but I haven’t really been sick.” All of which amazes Olivia’s girlfriend Nancy, who is also pregnant, due at the same time and goes to the same obstetrician. “She hasn’t thrown up once,” chides Nancy. “I’d call her with graphic descriptions of my bathroom bouts and she’d just say, ‘Oh, I was a bit out of sorts this morning, but I had a spot of tea and it settled down.’ What can I say? Olivia leads a charmed life.”

Olivia was not tempted to let her charm defy medical common sense. First-time moms over 35 (for whom amniocentesis is recommended to give advance warning of birth defects) have built-in anxieties. Like millions of career women who have put off getting pregnant (see box, page 85), Olivia has undergone amniocentesis and ultrasound tests to put her mind at ease. “I was sure everything was fine, but at my age you have to do it for peace of mind,” she says. She and Matt declined the opportunity to find out the gender of the child in advance. “We want that surprise when it happens,” she says.

Olivia is generally playing it safe. She’s given up her vigorous workout regimen and settles for regular swims and walks. “I live a pretty healthy life anyway,” she says, “but now I’m making a special effort to eat right, stay mellow and be careful.” In place of her hectic professional schedule, she has taken up gardening and knitting. “I’ve started with a floppy sweater for me and am working my way up to bootees,” she says, chuckling at the incongruity of her new hobbies with the rock-siren image she has begun to cultivate.

Indeed, the racy Helmut Newton photographs on the jacket of her new studio album, Soul Kiss, her first since Physical four years ago, may knock her off VH-1 forever. The musical material is similarly provocative. If the lyrics to the title cut (“I get down on my knees…”) don’t incur righteous wrath from those Washington antiporn groups, the steamy ménage à trois theme of Culture Shock is bound to. “It might get banned in Salt Lake City,” says Olivia, referring to a Utah station that outlawed Physical, “but I can’t imagine anyone else getting upset. I know plenty of people who have been in that [threesome] situation and I think they will get a giggle out of it.” Even prospective mommyhood hasn’t kept Olivia from writhing sensuously in videos to promote the tunes. But don’t look for her on the concert circuit any time soon. “Some people need that reinforcement,” she says. “I don’t.”

The expectant parents are adding a couple of rooms that could be nurseries to their already spacious modern Malibu dwelling. (The doctor’s best estimate is Valentine’s Day.) “We want to be ready,” says Olivia, “but we are superstitious and don’t want to do too much before he or she is born.” She hasn’t even bought any maternity clothes.

They do have “this week’s” list of names: Chloë for a girl, Jesse for a boy. It’s still too early for Lamaze classes, but both are boning up with baby books. Their current plan is to use one of the homey “alternative birthing rooms” at a nearby hospital. “I’m a bit nervous,” admits Olivia, “but I’ve got my sister who’s been through it before to keep me calm.”

Old superstitions haven’t stopped Granny Newton-John in Australia from preparing little smocked dresses, crib blankies and other baby goodies. “The only practical advice I’ve given Olivia,” says Mom, “is to get exercise, stay calm and rub olive oil on her stomach daily to avoid stretch marks.” Mom also plans to be around to help out after the birth.

Though concerned with his wife’s career, Matt maintains his own friends and interests. He knows members of the Brat Pack (recently he and Olivia sold Sean Penn and Madonna a piece of real estate), but doesn’t run with them. Most of his free time is spent with two of his brothers, Steve and Chris, who live nearby. “I am an outdoor nut,” he says.

The Lattanzis socialize mostly with local Aussie expatriates and attend “only enough industry functions to remind people we are still around.” Most summers the two repair to the wilds of Australia. “The nearest little town is six miles and we are accepted as locals. I can do my own grocery shopping,” says Olivia. “We’re thinking about moving there to raise our family. Australia may be a better place to raise them because the air is clean, the food is pure and there would be fewer of the security hassles of being famous where we have our place.” Olivia thinks two kids—a boy and a girl—would be ideal.

When Two of a Kind (Olivia’s film with John Travolta) fizzled in 1983, Australia was exactly where Olivia escaped as a kind of trial retirement. “I really needed time to think about what was important in my life.” She did. “I decided that I had let my career control my personal life too much. I’m not going to let that happen again.” Though she’s working on a script (The Perfect Specimen) with pal Nancy, and Matt has a Blake Edwards comedy (Crisis) due next year, future career plans are vague. Matt’s got his own hold on the essentials: “The greatest thing happened a few weeks ago,” he reports. “I put my ear on Livvy’s stomach. It kicked me.”

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